Scientists at IRB Barcelona have discovered that some brain tumours in larvae of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster use the genetic programme of germline cells to grow. The removal of some of these genes leads to healthy brains. This finding demonstrates that these genes are crucial for tumour development. The study, headed by ICREA researcher Cayetano Gonzlez, is published today in the prestigious journal Science.
One of the characteristics of tumour cells is their immortality, a property that allows them to divide without obeying external signals. As a result, tissue masses form, which, in most cases, interfere with organ functions. Data collected in recent years reveal than many human tumours activate specific genes of the germinal cell line those specialized in spermatozoids or ovules -, which is thought to allow them greater and longer viability. However, the role of these genes in tumour development remains to be established. In this study, the scientists showed for the first time that silencing some of these genes leads to the disappearance of tumours in the brain of the fruit fly.
Global analysis of gene expression in tumours
Not all cells use the same genes, but they make use of them depending on the function to be performed. This gene activation profile is what determines how cells divide and what they become specialized in, in the case they have not already done so. In this study the researchers have used DNA chip technology to monitor this gene activity in tumour cells and have compared it with healthy cells. For this purpose, they have analysed brain tumours induced by an alteration in the gene lmbt in fruit fly larvae.
Analysis of the gene expression profiles indicates that these tumour cells activate a total of 102 genes that are not activated in healthy cells. When the researchers examined the functions of these genes they observed that, in many cases, they were unknown, although 25
|Contact: Nuria Noriega|
Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)